Monday, October 22, 2007

Math Is Cool, Part 2

April last year, I blogged about math coolness I encountered while poking around the TopCoder member profiles...

Yes, I'm a math geek... who knew!?

In doubt that math is cool?! What would Halo 3 be without math... think on that one! So, maybe it's not math itself, but what can be done with math that's cool.... but then, aren't we just quibbling over semantics?

In fact, I was a fairly marginal math student all the way through school and much of the way through college; always a year behind the curve it seemed. But the August 1985 cover of BYTE magazine changed all that. [No luck finding an actual image of the cover online, but I did find this great link!] My discovery of Fractal mathematics convinced me that not only is math cool, but that I was in a unique point in history to be able to combine my love for computers with the power of math.

Anyway, I've been reading a series of books from SciAm Book Club (see note above) covering the history, math, and personalities surrounding Pi, e, i, Phi, and zero. Did you know that Pi, e, and i are all directly related to each other?! (While reading about Pi, I discovered why the Riemann Zeta function series contains primes... more coolness.)

So, I'm reading about Phi, now.

Did you know that Phi can be found in the five-pointed star? Measure the distance between two adjacent points, and divide that into the length of one of the long strokes... 1.618... Phi. [From my hand-drawn star, I get ratios between 1.42 and 1.59... maybe you can get a closer result.]

More later...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.21

Sunday, 10/21, GSX ODO 4632
To pickup hacksaw.
Notable: Hacksaw on a bike… not the smartest combination. But, it was a good ride. Beautiful sunny, pure blue skies with temps in the high 70s!

Saturday, 10/20, GSX ODO 4592
To Loudoun Motorsports for state inspection.
Notable: A sunny cool (low 60s) morning after a rainy night led to a hair-raising trip in, with cold wet/slick roads out of the neighborhood. Once on the dry, much better. Just impossible to get the feel for wet traction…

Beautiful weather on Thursday, but I drove in to work. Friday, I had hoped to take the bike in for its state inspection, but the weather said "no."

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Attending the New Paradigm Enterprise 2.0 All Member briefing last month, I was once again reminded of LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP5. Although I have an extensive "client" programming background, in the web realm, I'm a bit of a newb.

So, a few weeks ago, I got copies of Professional LAMP and Setting Up LAMP, and ordered a "cheap" Dell server.

The server arrived last Thursday. :-)

The entire locating the correct Fedora Linux build, download, verify ISO, burn DVD, install, test-run process took only a few hours... in spite of a few hiccups along the way. (My PC has a DVD/CD-RW... not a DVD-W/CD-RW. :-P)

Before starting the Fedora install, I also took a brief detour with the setup DVD included by Dell, which included a Linux variant. Unfortunately, after getting through the setup process, the install failed for lack of a "Disc 2." (The whole install seemed to be on a single DVD, and the other disc included in the package was docs only... so, no luck.) But, it's just as well that it didn't work out, because the Fedora release rocks.

I went for the full install, which includes not only web server and development tools, but also desktop apps: Firefox Browser, email, Open Office, GIMP (Open Source PhotoShop-like), Totem DVD player, games, and a lot more. It took a lot of restraint not to sell my MSFT shares right then and there! ;-)

This morning, I see a Wired article about the latest Ubuntu Linux Release. And, just as I was dropping a DVD into the drive, read about the problems with Totem DVD codec support. Installing the codec seemed to eliminate the error, but didn't yield any further success. But, the ultimate irony is that none of it mattered anyway... I bought this machine to be a web server / dev box -- not for movies or games... so, no sound card. :-P

So, as the install progresses from L to A to M to P. My study has begun with P. So far, looks very similar to Java. More later....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.17

Wednesday, 10/17, GSX ODO 4568
To Loudoun Motorsports and Market Station for lunch.
Notable: Still with AOL, but our team was hit really hard. Not happy. But, today, it’s an absolutely spectacular day with sunny skies, temps in the high 70s, and a light enough workload for a long lunch.

Ordered Scott Anti-Fog Lens Cleaner, Stomp Grip Tank Pad Kit, and Vortex Frame Sliders from Free shipping, too! Not ready for the track, yet. But, the Tank Pad will help me hold on better when stopping and turning. Hopefully will never use the Frame Sliders....

Monday, 10/15, GSX ODO 4539
To work and back.
Notable: T minus one day, and counting to AOL's October 2007 layoffs. Not happy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.13

Saturday, 10/13, GSX ODO 4524
To Target and back.
Notable: Still seems silly to ride a GSX-R into Target… but not as silly when riding out with eight shot glasses!

Friday, 10/12, GSX ODO 4506
Out for a hair cut, and back.
Notable: Sunny but chilly morning, so I drove in to work. But, after wrapping up work, returned home and rode the bike... the helmet’s not so good for the new haircut, but who cares?

Thursday, 10/11, GSX ODO 4480
Out to pick up spare contacts, and back.
Notable: Chilly and overcast, but good to get out for a quick ride. Saving gas!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.10

Wednesday, 10/10, GSX ODO 4468
To work and back.
Notable: The long way. Avoiding traffic, or just taking advantage of the weather. Unfortunately, I think I've peaked... not a beginning rider anymore, but not progressing much beyond "early intermediate" either. It's good to ride safe... but you don't learn as fast that way.

I took the Basic Rider Course (BRC) with the Apex folks. "Using your own motorcycle, you'll put into practice the techniques of managing traction, stopping quickly, cornering and swerving" is very similar to the BRC training, except for the "using your own motorcycle" part. I learned on a Suzuki Dual-Sport 250 and never made it above 25 mph. (Thought I was really flying, when I made it into 2nd gear!) So... with a 1000cc bike that has 168 bhp, does 0-60 in 3.0 s, and has a top speed of 186 mph, this class would be a new experience. But, Nov. 2 sounds cold. Maybe next year!

Tuesday, 10/09, GSX ODO 4433
To work and back.
Notable: Not enough to blog about. Still, the smell of the flowers along Claiborne is not something to take for granted.... I wish I could capture the scent! Has anyone invented the scent camera, yet? ...Apparently, yes:
CNN Transcript - Newsroom/World View: NEWSROOM for May 4, 2000 ...
A scent camera can grab the smell, then analyzes the elements of the smell and transmits the file to the television station. The broadcaster sends the scent ...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.08

Monday, 10/08, GSX ODO 4420
To work and back.
Notable: Overcast and a bit chilly on the way in to work, light traffic... not a bad ride. The flowers are out again on Claiborne Parkway. Indescribable. Left work a few minutes early to avoid rush-hour traffic... stop for gas... very uncomfortable for the remainder of the ride home. Spidey sense? Or maybe, just foreshadowing of my near-miss in the car... backing up, I nearly ran over a neighbor's small dog while they were out for a walk. Oops!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Europe - Day 2 - Rome: Arrival and Acclimation

Disney Theme for the Day: All Roads Lead to Rome

The day began with breakfast at the Exedra buffet; a generous and generally edible selection by European standards. (During my last trip to Europe, I had considerable trouble finding palatable food for breakfast with each new country. It typically took a day or two to sort out a solution for breakfast. London was the exception, where the "
typical english breakfast" never really matched what I was looking for each morning.)

After breakfast, we gathered in the Exedra lobby to await James' and Davide's preview of the day and direction to the bus. We also met our roman tour guide for the next two days, Marlena, and our driver Nino.

We piled into the bus with snacks in hand (provided by James) and after a quick head-count, headed for the Coliseum, with a brief driving tour on the way.

With warnings of pickpockets and overcharging vendors, we marched toward the Coliseum and breezed through the line with all logistics in the care of our guides.

With only a few minutes wait, we began our tour. Interesting facts about the Coliseum, gladiators, and the lifetimes of the roman citizenry of the era abounded:
- not just slaves, but professionals and amateurs competed in the Coliseum
- holes in the walls are due to scavenging for metal (pins connecting the huge building blocks) that took place hundreds of years later
- several inches of sand over the wooden arena floor were used to absorb the blood
- gladiator training took place in several enclaves, including one just around the corner
- there are 76 numbered entrances to the Coliseum interior, four in the cardinal directions: one for the Emperor, one for Gladiator entrances, one for the victorious, and another ...for the fallen?
- the Coliseum was built on Nero's lake... or not... Nero died at AD 76. Building of the Coliseum began AD 80 and finished AD 89. (I suppose it wasn't Nero's lake after he died.)
- An earthquake in 1349 caused much of the damage seen today, resulting in the "cut away view" (which is actually quite handy for seeing all the inner detail of the Coliseum).

We walked the entire perimeter, and then moved toward the center.

From the Coliseum, we walked up the steps to the
arch adjacent to the Roman Forum. After some discussion of the inscriptions on the arch, and the meaning of SPQR, we headed into the Forum, the site of the ancient city center.

Ruins were everywhere, each with it's own story -- however, it was a bit of ancient-history overload for me. But, fascinating to be in the middle of it all.

With alternating sun and a light sprinkling of rain, we made it back to the bus. But, not before James and Davide had provided us with rain ponchos! (We didn't need them, but wow(!) these guys are prepared! ...there had been no forecast of rain until late in the trip, in Venice.)

We headed into the city for lunch at a local pizzeria... never-ending thin-crust pizzas of all sorts. I'm afraid that after salad, I ate roughly a pizza and a half myself, and then chased it with a Coke Light and dessert. Time for more walking!

The rest of the day flowed like something out of a Lizzy McGuire movie.
We headed to the Spanish Steps, passing stores along the way: Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bulgari, Prada, and arriving at the Barcaccia Fountain and a brief stop by Babington's Tea Rooms, a public drinking fountain, the fruit vendor, and on to the Trevi Fountain. For luck, we tossed coins over our left shoulders with our right hands. A quick run through the mall brought us to the MAGRIPPALFCOSTERTIVMFECIT (Basilica di Santa Maria).

Headed to the next stop, I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of a Yamaha YZF-M1 MotoGP replica racer patterned after Valentino Rossi's bike. Nice!

At the square, we were treated to gelato by our Disney hosts. As they say, the first one is free. For the rest of the trip, we were hooked, and made sure to have gelato for dessert at least once each day.

For dinner, we were on our own. We got directions to Target (a Roman restaurant, not the store) and headed to dinner. And, unlike dinner in the U.S., dinner in Europe, and especially in Italy, is expected to last for hours. The check is only delivered upon request, and even then, with no hurry.... it's not uncommon to wait for half an hour to forty-five minutes after requesting the check! Dinner is a social experience and, here, life is lived at a different pace!

[Ever since my early July 1,000 mile ride to Dayton and back, I had suffered from a stinger in my left shoulder/back... somewhere during our Italian journey, I forgot that my shoulder hurt.]

On the way back to the hotel, we grabbed more gelato.

Back in our room at last, it was good to drop back into our cloud-like beds.... ah!

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.07

Sunday, 10/07, GSX ODO 4407
To Best Buy and back.
Notable: $55 to spend, and the coupons expire in November.... so, Coldplay X&Y and PGR4, it is! Now, we just need our Xbox 360 back from Microsoft. Just made it to Best Buy at 6:59 in time to beat the OPEN sign being turned out. Rode home in the dark -- gotta love the bugs; they're out in force.

Friday, 10/05, GSX ODO 4385
To gym and back.
Notable: The weather is too nice not to ride. So, I ride and workout. Nothing notable about the ride, but during rush-hour around here, that's a good thing.

Thursday, 10/04, GSX ODO 4368
To work and back.
Notable: Fog in the morning! Good temperature, but a bit humid. Crap rush-hour traffic on the way home, again! But no incident... so for this week, that's something.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.03

Wednesday, 10/03, GSX ODO 4355
To work and back.
Notable: Nice weather, and a quiet ride in.... Crap rush-hour traffic on the ride home: 1st gear most of the way (loud) to make sure idiot drivers didn’t swerve into my line in a desperate attempt to get home 30 seconds sooner. (Lots of swerving action 50 to 100 yards ahead of me, across two and three lanes, but nothing near me.) ...until I was finally clear of the worst of the traffic... then, a
Honda Repsol replica racer pulled past me in the right lane, waved, crossed a little tight into my lane, and then pulled into a left turn lane as we passed. He cut off a turning car, and had to skid just past the bumper of the second car in line at the light. Oops… What is this!? Bad karma week for everyone around me!? I rode by like nothing happened, and didn’t hear the sound of the car he cut off running him over… but geez. Bet his adrenaline kicked up a bit. ...sigh....

Monday, October 01, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.01

Monday, 10/01, GSX ODO 4339
To work and back.

Notable: Holy shit! (Kindof an oxymoron, isn't that??), I'm just a minute from the office, and turning into the right-turn lane onto Broderick, and this woman in an Infinity G35 has just pulled into the turn lane ahead of me. She takes off like a bat-out-of-hell. As she rounds the corner, I realize that she must have spotted me in her rear-view mirror and has decided to show me a thing or two.... uh hunh.

I enter the corner following her, and notice that I really had to break -- she really was flying through the turn! I'm thinking, "Good for you -- I'm gonna take this corner a little slow today if that's alright with you." No sooner do I finish entry to the turn and begin pulling through the apex, then I'm able to watch as all four of her tires snap loose... so much for dynamic traction control!

From there, I'm watching in slow motion as I complete the turn, slow a bit more, and from a safe distance watch as she completes a 180 spin across three lanes (one of ours, and two of the oncoming). Thank God the lanes are all clear.

I continue to watch the slow motion slide play out, recalling my 180 degree spin across two lanes in my BMW M3 back in 2001. Somehow it feels like we are karmically linked.... through both my M3 spin, and my January crash on the gixer... on Broderick.

She completes the slide, nearly coming to a stop before slamming into the curb. Nearly. She slams into the curb with both front and rear right wheels. Wham!! (Ouch!!) I ride by, staring in shock in amazement, noticing her just-above-shoulder-length light brown hair.

After checking in at my office around the corner, I headed back to the scene to make sure she was OK. Apparently she was able to drive away... all that remained were four skid marks and the marks from her wheels' impact with the curb.

Sigh... another lesson learned the hard way!

Good luck to the girl in G35. I hope she knows a good Chiropractor and has great car insurance.

Otherwise, it was a beautiful day, and a great ride to/from work.

Ride safe! Stay up! ...and, drive safe!